Hartford Athletic is expected to debut at the renovated Dillon Stadium Saturday, but construction crews will be working down-to-the-wire to have Dillon ready for kickoff.
Capital Region Development Authority Executive Director Mike Freimuth says the field will be playable, but renovations won’t be complete.
“Nervous, nervous. Want to get it done. We’re T-minus 48 hours or maybe 72 I’ve lost count, but we’ll need every one of them.”
Wednesday, about 75 crew members worked hard in the heat to get things done.
“We’ll have the concessions working, the bathrooms working, the field working, and the seats are in,” said Freimuth, about what will be ready Saturday. “The job was way more complex than anyone had envisioned. We thought it would be a simple rehab. Turned out to be a reconstruction.”
Hartford Athletic’s season was supposed to start at Dillon, but construction delays moved play temporarily to Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
“We’re $14 million in, it’s public money, some private money. The funding got hung up into the fall and that delayed us and we’ve been racing all the spring rains ever since,” said Freimuth.
The hope is that Dillon will soon feel like home to Hartford Athletic and local teams.
“Dillion Stadium really is a historic stadium in Hartford and it had completely fallen apart and had been unusable for years,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.
Not many teams can say they’re playing their second home opener of the season.
“Rentschler Field was great for us, but now we get to see the fans packed into a more tight environment and I think it’s going to be really special,“ said John Ponziani, marketing and communications manager of Hartford Athletic.
As heat rises from the turf, the next couple of days there will be a lot of cheering for the team wearing hard hats to get to their goal before game time. “We have a man of the match at the end of every week. Maybe we give it to these guys,” said Ponziani, about the workers sweating in the heat.
Freimuth remembers watching the Beach Boys perform at Dillon.
This last minute stress, another chapter in Dillon Stadium’s long history in Hartford.
“We plan on being here Saturday afternoon. And if fans show up and we’re not ready to play we’ll give them hard hats and put them to work,” Friedmuth said.
This soccer match is just one of many events happening in downtown Hartford this Saturday night. If you’re planning on attending any of the activities, plan on coming into the city early.